2019 Reading Plan (End of Year Update)

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Born in captivity, but living free with my wild cousins

Hello,

December was a monster month as I completed nine books, six of which were entirely read in the last 31 days of the decade.  For the year I achieved impressive numbers, which I’ll put in context later. But let’s look at the official 2019 stats.

Overall Total: 67 (148.9%) 2nd Most (2018)
Original List: 45 (100%)
Total Pages: 29965 (447.2) 2nd Most (2018)

The month began with my finishing off Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars, it was an interesting look at the men who ruled Rome from Julius Caesar to Domitian but unlike Tacitus was a little more gossipy.  H.W. Brands’ biography of Andrew Jackson that did a good job giving a full view of his life and what was happening that influenced his life, but wasn’t much into what happened with his Presidency.  A biography of Uriah Smith, an Adventist pioneer, was informative but one could tell that historian Gary Land was rushing to get the biography finished before his death.  Brandon Sanderson’s first novel, Elantris, came next and while it did have first book problems it was a good read and showcased the elements that Sanderson is known for.  Cold War by Jerome Preisler, the fifth book of the Power Plays series had the potential to be good but the ending fell apart.  Rene Noorbergen’s Treasures of the Lost Races was simply a mess that diluted anything interesting in the book.  David Lagercrantz’s continuation of the Millennium series in The Girl in the Spider’s Web was good and enough for me to read the next book.  Dragon the tenth Dirk Pitt book was fine and engaging, but not the best in the series so far.  And the last book, Western Civilization since 1500, was a nice study aid/quick survey but being almost 50 years old shows its age.

My goals this year were to read 45 books and to get through my original list of 45 that I listed in January. For the first time I accomplished both goals(!) when I completed Dragon a few days ago. My grand total of 67 books is the second most I’ve read in a year, but last year’s 83 was never a consideration in achieving from the beginning. My page total of 29965 was 304 pages short from tying last year’s record total, which was a surprise that I got so close.

I won’t wax on about what happened in 2019 and instead focus on finishing up my first post of the decade. So to end the year, here’s a list of my completed books.

Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe by Chris DeRose
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire by Lawrence James
W.W. Prescott: Forgotten Giant of Adventism’s Second Generation by Gilbert M. Valentine^
Soldier, Sailor, Frogman, Spy, Airman, Gangster, Kill or Die: How the Allies Won on D-Day by Giles Milton#
Raise the Titanic! (Dirk Pitt #4) by Clive Cussler
The Cosmic Code (Earth Chronicles #6) by Zecharia Sitchin
Divide and Conquer (Op-Center #7) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer by Richard W. Schwarz^
The Histories by Herodotus*
Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen
Shadow & Claw (New Sun #1-2) by Gene Wolfe
The End of Days (Earth Chronicles #7) by Zecharia Sitchin
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
The Political Writings of St. Augustine*
E.J. Waggoner: From the Physician of Good News to the Agent of Division by Woodrow W. Whidden^
Women Warriors: An Expected History by Pamela D. Toler#
Vixen 03 (Dick Pitt #5) by Clive Cussler
Line of Control (Op-Center #8) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Peace and Turmoil (The Dark Shores #1) by Elliot Brooks+
World Mythology by Donna Rosenberg
The National Team by Caitlin Murray#
Sword & Citadel (New Sun #3-4) by Gene Wolfe
Politika (Power Plays #1) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Night Probe! (Dirk Pitt #6) by Clive Cussler
Mission of Honor (Op-Center #9) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America by Douglas Morgan^
English Constitutional Conflicts of the Seventeenth Century: 1603-89 by J.R. Tanner
Dune by Frank Herbert
Rebellion and Redemption by David Tasker^
ruthless.com (Power Plays #2) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
The British Are Coming (The Revolution #1) by Rick Atkinson+
The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides*
Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner
Deep Six (Dirk Pitt #7) by Clive Cussler
Sea of Fire (Op-Center #10) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier by George R. Knight^
The History of England (abridged) by Lord Macaulay
The Ghost, The Owl by Franco & Sara Richard+
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain and Ireland by Kevin Crossley-Holland#
Shadow Watch (Power Plays #3) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
Redemption in Genesis by John S. Nixon^
Nostradamus Predicts The End of the World by Rene Noorbergen+
Three Kingdoms: Classic Novel in Four Volumes by Luo Guanzhong
Cyclops (Dirk Pitt #8) by Clive Cussler
Call to Treason (Op-Center #11) by Jeff Rovin
Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George H.W. Bush by Jon Meacham
Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien
On Law, Morality, and Politics by Thomas Aquinas*
J.N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers by Brian E. Strayer^
Shocking Secrets of American History by Bill Coate+
The Curse of Oak Island by Randall Sullivan+
Bio-Strike (Power Plays #4) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
To a God Unknown by John Steinbeck
Secrets of the Lost Races by Rene Noorbergen^
Treasure (Dirk Pitt #9) by Clive Cussler
War of Eagles (Op-Center #12) by Jeff Rovin
The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius*
Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands
Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator by Gary Land
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Cold War (Power Plays #5) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
Treasures of the Lost Races by Rene Noorbergen^
The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Millennium #4) by David Lagercrantz
Dragon (Dirk Pitt #10) by Clive Cussler
Western Civilization Since 1500 by Walther Kirchner^

*= Original Home Read
^= Home Read
#= Giveaway Read
+= Random Insertion

Western Civilization since 1500

0964fb29968767759764b486577444341587343Western Civilization Since 1500 by Walther Kirchner
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Covering over 450 years of history in a little over 300 pages seems a daunting task, even more so when it begins in Europe and slowly spreads across the globe. Western Civilization since 1500 by Walther Kirchner is a survey of the rise of European global dominance from the beginnings of “modern times” to the generation after World War II when the periphery powers of the United States and Soviet Union rose to dominance.

Kirchner spends the first 20 pages doing a quick recap of Western Civilization from its Sumerian beginnings to 1500. Then over the course of the next 300 pages, Kirchner divides the approximately 450+ years of history into 20 chapters of specific “eras” whether political and/or cultural developments and happenings. Unlike Kirchner’s previous survey, there was no real “highlight” for the general reader though the significance of some cultural individuals—writers, painters, composers, etc.—that in my own Western Civ and World History classes in high school and college were never mentioned or those that were mentioned that Kirchner didn’t thus showing the difference 30-35 years makes in historical studies. Kirchner obvious adherence to the Marxist theory of history was on full display, but it did not necessarily mean a favorable view of Communist regimes or leaders. As study aid for college students in the mid-1960s there were some interesting miscues (the misdating of the Battle of Yorktown stands out), omissions (the genocidal famine caused by the First Five Year Plan), and downright lies (that the U.S. citizens were sympathetic to the British from the beginning of WWII). Given that this book is over 50 years old there is dated terminology that wouldn’t be used today, not all for politically correct reasons, that would make the reader do a double take if they didn’t know when this book was published.

Though this small volume is meant as a study aid to college students and a quick reference for general readers, to which is essentially succeeds, it is pretty old and should be used by astute history readers to learn how the study of history has changed over time.

Western Civilization to 1500

Dragon (Dirk Pitt #10)

0671742760.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Dragon by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Cold War seems to be winding down, but a new economic war appears to be on the horizon with the added element of nuclear blackmail. Dragon is the tenth book of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series as the titular hero finds himself sucked into a espionage war between the U.S. and fanatical ultranationalist Japanese businessmen and criminals looking to create a new empire.

On 6 August 1945, a B-29 Bomber “Dennings Demons” takes off from the Aleutians with an atomic bomb headed for Osaka without knowing the “Enola Gay” is headed for Hiroshima and vice versa; however a Japanese pilot shots down the bomber which lands in the water not far off from a little island off the Japanese coast. Forty-five years later a Norwegian cruise ship in the Pacific finds an abandoned Japanese cargo ship and find a car leaking radiation moments before it detonates destroying the cargo ship, takes out of the cruise ship in the shockwave as well as a British research vessel. Underneath the surface a British submersible is also damage from the nuclear shockwave is found by an experimental NUMA ocean floor crawler—piloted by Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino—from an underwater research facility that must be evacuated due to earthquakes caused by the nuclear explosion. After getting to the surface, Pitt and Giordino are flown to D.C. and are “volunteered” to join a task force to tackle the nuclear threat from Japan due to them smuggling nukes in the country in cars. The two go outside the process and give the task force big clues that tips off the Japanese that their plan has been found out. Undercover agents in both Japan and the U.S. take on security forces with both sides, but things hit the fan when the Japanese kidnap Pitt’s on-off love interest Congresswoman Loren Smith along with an influential U.S. Senator. Thanks to a British undercover agent, the task force is able to locate the Japanese command center and launch a two-prong attack with Pitt & Giordino acting a decoys to let the rest of the task force get in and destroy the command center but both teams are surprised by robots upsetting their plans. The five task force members are forced run for their lives in a human hunting game, but Pitt as the first to be the prey tricks his hunter and turns the tables on him. The task force escapes with Loren, the Senator, and the mastermind behind the Japanese plot but their attempt to cause damage to the command center doesn’t work. The Japanese decide to set off a nuke in Wyoming, but the task force has found the wreckage of “Denning’s Demons” and plan to use the NUMA crawler to get the atom bomb and set it off in a nearby fault to take out the little Japanese island that the command center is built in. Pitt keeps Giordino from joining him and is able to fulfill the plan to detonate the bomb, but the escape route doesn’t workout making everyone think he doesn’t make it until a month later when the crawler comes up out of the ocean on a little island in front of a resort with a haggard Pitt asking for some fresh food.

At the time of publication (1991) the Cold War was over and with it the clichés of earlier Pitt novels, so Cussler compensated with Japanese business takeover on steroids. Overall the plot was solid with none of the scenes really dragging the book down, unlike the previous book. Of the characters, the main antagonists were a tad on the cliché side but were written well enough to still be a little rounded. Dirk Pitt was less of a lady’s man this time around, but to offset that Cussler made Pitt be perfect at everything including beat the author himself in a classic car race. Though I’ll give credit to Cussler for having Pitt referencing Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game before he was hunted and doing homage to it in his own book.

Dragon is a product of its time, an overall fine book that kept the reader hooked but also not the best in the series in my opinion. Clive Cussler keeps on going back and forth in how to describe his main character from book to book, but at least he isn’t the jerk he was in the earlier books in the series.

Dirk Pitt

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Millennium #4)

1101872004.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The triad of Big Brother, industrial espionage, and organized crime suddenly find themselves in the crosshairs of a very intelligent young woman who has the means to make their lives difficult. The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth book in the Millennium series but the first written by David Lagercrantz in replacing the late Stieg Larrson as Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist find themselves racing to save the life of an 8-year old boy savant from a dark triad of corruption wanting him dead.

Uber-intelligent computer scientist Frans Balder leaves his Silicon Valley job, returning to Sweden to take custody of his autistic son August. He later learns from several sources his life is in danger but ignores the warnings until his paranoia makes him call Mikael Blomkvist. But as Blomkvist, who is intrigued with Balder since he hired Lisabeth Salander to find who stole his research, arrives just as Balder is murdered in front of his son who can draw picture to appear lifelike while also a mathematic genius. The group that killed Balder is already being tracked by Salander, who had hacked the NSA to get information on them and their “allies”, and after learning of Balder’s death starts following the case when she learns there is a leak in the murder investigation and that August is targeted because of his skill. Shot in the act of saving August, Salander takes the boy with her to keep him safe thanks to the efforts of Blomkvist and others including one of his young colleagues. But then the group comes after Salander they target Blomkvist first and he comes face-to-face with Camilla Salander which wards him from the trap, but his younger colleague isn’t so lucky and after lengthy torture divulges Lisabeth’s location. Camilla and her gang attack, but Lisabeth takes out three of them—though not her sister—allowing August and she to escape. An NSA employee comes to Sweden and uses Blomkvist to out his corrupt coworkers and leadership, but Lisabeth gives Blomkvist the information she got from the NSA to add to the “whistleblower” interview.

Though it’s been several years since I read the original trilogy, I did notice a difference in this book with my memory. Both Lisabeth and Blomkvist are similar but more brooding than what I remember which made a difference as the book went along. Lagercrantz’s writing style compared to what I remember of Larrson’s was noticeable, while not bad it changed the feeling of the “world” Larrson created and how the narrative was structured. There was similarities and stark differences that this both a familiar and weird at the same time. Overall, the fact that I’m still interested in reading the fifth book should give an indication that it’s a fine continuation of the series.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a good continuation of Stieg Larrson’s Millennium series with David Lagercrantz taking the reins in writing. While there are noticeable differences to go along with some similarities, the latter was enough to keep me interested in reading the next book and to see how it goes.

Treasures of the Lost Races

1572582677.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Treasures of the Lost Races by Rene Noorbergen
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Buried treasure whether coins or artifacts made of gold—though silver isn’t bad either—are being found by archaeologists and normal everyday people is an allure for more to go out to be the one to have the next big find. Treasures of the Lost Races by Rene Noorbergen chronicles some of the amazing discoveries of treasures found around the world, searches for lost treasures, and theories about how advanced artifacts were from “primitive” cultures.

While a good portion of Noorbergen’s writing is about amazing treasures found over the years and were interesting, another large portion was about the search for various treasures which is where some of the major problems with the book were located. While Noorbergen’s discussion on the Copper Scroll treasure list from either Solomon’s Temple or the Second Temple was fine as was his search for the remains of Pharaoh’s army of the Exodus, it was the Ark of the Covenant and lost Incan treasure were things got mindboggling. In the former, Noorbergen focuses on a story of a US Army chaplain who supposedly glimpsed the Ark while his unit was chasing German soldiers in Palestine after their retreat from Egypt which absolutely makes no historical sense; in the later Noorbergen goes off on underground tunnels in the Andes that the Inca might has used to stash gold from the Spaniards and goes off on a tangent from his previous book. At a length of 174 pages, one wonders if Noorbergen was just padding the book though it resulted in it being disjointed.

Treasures of the Lost Races had its interesting sections, but Rene Noorbergen wrote a book that was disjointed and in some places completely inaccurate making it not a very good follow up to Secrets of the Lost Races.

Cold War (Power Plays #5)

0425182142.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Cold War by Jerome Preisler
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The cold barrenness of Antarctica is about to become a battleground as an international uranium consortium aims to take out UpLink’s research base to hide their illegal activities. Cold War is the fifth book of Tom Clancy’s Power Plays series written by Jerome Preisler as UpLink security chief Peter Nimec journeys to Antarctica when a prototype Mars probe and recovery team goes missing only to find himself battling mercenaries employed by consortium with tentacles stretching to such places around the world like Scotland and Switzerland.

Three personnel from UpLink’s Antarctic base, Cold Corners, are attacked by an unknown group while searching for a missing Mars rover prototype, prompting Roger Gordian to Peter Nimec to the base to find the missing people. Having to quickly get use to the living conditions, Nimec deals with a storm that also contains a group do mercenaries that attack the water usage plant making Nimec want to strike back and find their missing people. A huge solar flare storm interferes with communications with both the Sword assault team and the mercenaries, but Nimec’s team was able to overpower the mercenaries. In Scotland, a series of accidents, murders, and suicides gets the attention of a detective that gets a tip from UpLink security after following a hacker and finding suspicious emails about a hit on one of the dead individual’s from the head of the UK’s nuclear authority. In Switzerland, Gabriel Morgan the head of the consortium whose mercenaries attacked UpLink is looking to take out Cold Corners, get rid of his UK partner for her mishandling of the events in Scotland, and arranging to buy Picassos the world didn’t know exist after verification from his favorite forger.

All three subplots are interesting and slowly threads connect each one of them making this a very intriguing book until suddenly it was over, all three plots cut short. Of the three subplots, the Scottish plot was the best even though it ended abruptly (not counting the tacked-on Epilogue) and frankly due to how it was cut short the Morgan subplot was worthless. Given that the previous installment was over 100 pages longer, this book was too short and really hurt the overall product of the book that was shaping up to be a great page turner.

Cold War is probably the most disappointing book in the series so far, Jerome Preisler’s creation and set up of all three subplots were great and as they slowly twisted together the book was hard to put down then suddenly it ended with a thud and empty feeling. While this book isn’t the worst in the series, it was a major letdown given how it started off.

Power Plays

Elantris (Elantris #1)

5c6946d599ea69959676c646a77444341587343Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The city of Elantris was home to magical individuals that ruled Arelon for centuries then the magic died and there was chaos. Elantris the first novel by Brandon Sanderson follows a cursed Prince, his “widowed” Princess bride, and a foreign Priest come to Arelon to convert it from it’s pagan ways before judgment falls.

Raoden, the beloved Crown Prince of Arelon, wakes up to find himself transformed in a “cursed” Elantrian and escorted into the city by the priests with funerary offering as he is considered already dead. Days later, Princess Sarlene arrives from Teod to find out that her betrothed is dead and due to the marriage contract she is now the daughter of the Arelon King but sees the arrival of the Derethi priest Hrathen came to convert the Arelon in three months or it would be destroyed. As Raoden comes to grips with is now fallen home, Sarlene and Hrathen duel one another for the future of Arelon until eventually Elantris and its residents become part of their political game. Meanwhile Raoden has used his political savvy to begin “New Elantris” within the city to make life worth living among the cursed inhabitants and gives him time to find out the old magic still works but weakly and begins trying to figure out what went wrong. Through numerous interactions with another Raoden figures out what happened to the magic and begins “repairing” it thanks to Sarlene falls in love with him then learns who he is only to be separated thanks to Hrathen who is almost able to convert Arelon and Teod only to learn they were meant to be murdered because only citizens from those two nations can become Elantrians. Raoden is able to “cure” the Elantrian magic and now empowered goes to Teod to save Sarlene and battle the Derethi warriors alongside Hrathen who feels betrayed by his religious superiors.

Unlike Sanderson’s future books, the plot literally starts at the book’s beginning without a little buildup which was both different and nice. Yet this is a first novel and has problems that go along with it as Raoden and Sarlene are essentially perfect with any mistakes they make coming back to work out in the end while Hrathen’s inner struggle between having faith in his god and the leaders of his religious shows the maturity of writing that Sanderson would show in future books. Another quality that Sanderson is known for is connecting everything together at the end is present here making a very engaging finish to the book.

Elantris is the first novel of the prolific career of Brandon Sanderson that has an engaging plot that has a quality climax. While having some problems that are typical of a first novel there are the wonderful writing elements that Sanderson is known that makes you want to read the next book he writes if this is your first.

Cosmere

Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator

082802779x.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator by Gary Land
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The man who came to personify the Review and Herald over 50 years of working on it going from one of the young pioneers to elder statesmen of the Second Advent movement. Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator by Gary Land chronicles the life of this indispensable yet very opinionated man who was influential with Adventist readers around the United States.

Land quickly covers Smith’s early life in New Hampshire including the two biggest events of that time, the loss of his leg at age 12 and his conversion to Millerism. This latter event eventually led to Smith’s joining the then small Sabbath-keeping Adventists led by Joseph Bates and the Whites, the latter Smith would impress when he submitted a 3,000-line blank verse poem about the foundation, rise, and progress of the Adventist movement leading to James White offering Smith a position at the Review and Herald. Smith did everything for the magazine from typesetting to editorials during his early years before James White took a backseat, letting the younger Smith take the lead. Throughout his tenure Smith would constantly cover Adventist doctrines and how present-day events had prophetic implications especially when it came to other Christians attempting to get through Sunday legislation on various levels of government. Yet Smith flirted with controversy throughout his time at the magazine and in denominational work from Battle Creek College to the 1888 Minneapolis meeting to confrontations with the General Conference leadership and getting admonished by Ellen White.

With a text of almost 250 pages, Land is quick and concise in his writing but not in his research as seen in his chapter endnotes. While the reader does get a very informative look at Smith’s life, there seems to be a rushed feeling with the biography. Unfortunately, this seems to be a consequence of Land working between cancer treatments to complete this and two other historical works that he finished just before his death.

Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator is the first biography of its kind in over 35 years through with a different perspective than previous books. Gary Land’s informative and concise wording gives the reader a better look at the man whose name is known in Adventist circles but his life is not.

Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times

1400030722.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Considered by some the most dangerous man to be President and others as one of their own that deserved the office, he ushered in a sea change in Washington and American politics. Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands follows the future President of the United States from his birth in the South Carolina backcountry to frontier town of Nashville to the battlefields of the Old Southwest then finally to the White House and how he gave his name to an era of American history.

Brands begins with a Jackson family history first from Scotland to Ulster then to the Piedmont region of the Carolina where his aunts and uncles had pioneered before his own parents immigrated. Fatherless from birth, Jackson’s childhood was intertwined with issues between the American colonies and Britain then eventually the Revolutionary War that the 13-year old Jackson participated in as a militia scout and guerilla fighter before his capture and illness while a POW. After the death of the rest of his family at the end of the war through illness, a young Jackson eventually went into law becoming one of the few “backcountry” lawyers in western North Carolina—including Tennessee which was claimed by North Carolina—before moving to Nashville and eventually becoming one of the founders of the state of Tennessee and become one of it’s most important military and political figures especially with his marriage to Rachel Donelson. Eventually Jackson’s status as the major general of the Tennessee militia led him to first fight the Creek War—part of the overall War of 1812—then after the successful conclusion of the campaign was made a major general of the regular army in charge of the defending New Orleans from British attack which ultimately culminated in the famous 1815 battle that occurred after the signing of the peace treaty in Ghent. As “the” military hero of the war, Jackson’s political capital grew throughout the Monroe administration even with his controversial invasion of Florida against the Seminole. After becoming the first U.S. Governor of Florida, Jackson left the army and eventually saw his prospects rise for the Presidency to succeed Monroe leading to the four-way Presidential contest of 1824 which saw Jackson win both the popular vote and plurality of electoral college votes but lose in the House to John Quincy Adams. The campaign for 1828 began almost immediately and by the time of the vote the result wasn’t in doubt. Jackson’s time in the White House was focused on the Peggy Eaton affair, the battle over Bank of the United States, the Nullification Crisis with South Carolina, Indian relations, and finally what was happening in Texas. After his time in office, Jackson struggled keeping his estate out of debt and kept up with the events of around the country until his death.

In addition to focusing on Jackson’s life, Brands make sure to give background to the events that he would eventually be crucial part of. Throughout the book Brands keeps three issues prominent: Unionism, slavery, and Indian relations that dominated Jackson’s life and/or political thoughts. While Brands hits hard Jackson’s belief in the Union and is nuanced when it comes with slavery, the relations with Indians is well done in some areas and fails in some (most notably the “Trail of Tears”). This is not a biography focused primarily on Jackson’s time in the White House and thus Brands only focused on the big issues that is primarily focused on schools instead of an intense dive into his eight years.

Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times is a informative look into the life of the seventh President of the United States and what was happening in the United States throughout his nearly eight decades of life. H.W. Brands’ writing style is given to very easy reading and his research provides very good information for both general and history specific readers, though he does hedge in some areas. Overall a very good biography.

The Twelve Caesars

0140449213.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

For the past two millennia Caesar has denoted the absolute ruler of an empire, a legacy of one man who ruled Rome and the men who succeeded him and used his name. The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius gives biographical sketches of the men who ruled the Western world for a century and a half, from the end of the Republic to the death of Domitian.

Each of Suetonius’ biographies follow the similar pattern in which the individual’s heritage, political-military career, private lives, personal habits, and physical appearance. Though the pattern is the same, Suetonius’ style is to slowly weave in elements of one section into another—except for physical appearance—thus not breaking a nice flow for the reader. As the main source of Caligula (Gaius in the text), Claudius, and Vespasian’s family history, Suetonius not only adds on top of Tacitus but covers what was lost from his contemporary’s works. Yet unlike Tacitus, gossip and innuendo features a lot in the work making this book a little bit racy compared to Suetonius’ contemporary.

The translation by Robert Graves—of I, Claudius fame—was wonderfully done and did a lot to give the text a great flow. Of Suetonius’ text the overwhelming use of portents and omens was a bit too much at times, though given the time period of the historian’s life this superstitious view was a part of everyday life.

The Twelve Caesars gives another view of the men who ruled the Western world. Suetonius’ writing style and subject matter contrast with Tacitus but only for the better for the reader of both who get a full picture of the individuals the two contemporary historians cover.